If I were to measure “The Homesman” only by its two lead performances, I’d call it a home run deserving of multiple Academy Award nominations. Unfortunately, its story wanders this way and that, an open-range Western that sometimes gallops, and sometimes stumbles.
Set in about 1850, the tale is of three pioneer wives who have gone mad in the lonely stretches of Nebraska. They need to be transported back to Iowa to be cared for by their families, but none of their husbands has the will or gumption to make the journey. So Mary Bee Cuddy volunteers to be their guardian and chaperone.
Mary Bee is played by Hilary Swank, in another signature performance of her career, and is a woman of immeasurable virtues. She runs her own farm and is, as one fellow says, “as good a man as any man in these parts.” However, her soul is weighed down by her inability to find a husband, owing to her plain looks and bossiness.
Early in her journey she runs across George Briggs, played by Tommy Lee Jones, who also directed and co-wrote the screenplay. Briggs has been strung up for claim jumping, but Mary Bee cuts him down in exchange for his help getting the women back to Iowa.
Along the way they encounter the familiar array of threats from American Indians, rapacious bandits, con men and natural elements. Somehow, these two fiercely independent souls must find a way to trust one another.
Even though the script could’ve used a few more runs around the corral, “The Homesman” is worth a look if only to see these two master thespians plying their trade.
Bonus features are rather disappointing. The Blu-ray and DVD editions both carry the same three featurettes: “Story to Script,” “Shooting the Film” and “19th Century Life.”
Film: 4 Yaps
Extras: 2 Yaps